Pinatubo was the best thing since sliced bread last season, earning a higher juvenile rating than Frankel.
However, if his first two starts as a three-year-old are anything to go by, the toast is in danger of burning. Trainer Charlie Appleby insists “he has lost nothing in defeat”, but that lofty rating hasn’t been backed up yet.
Finishing third in the 2000 Guineas and runner-up in the St James’s Palace Stakes is something most owners would take. Not powerful global operators Godolphin, though.
Appleby admits Pinatubo “has not quite been getting home”, but that is stating the obvious. Even his staunchest supporters can see that.
The question is what now for Pinatubo? If living up to his previous billing, then he was supposed to be the last great son of Godolphin’s late sire Shamardal.
Pinatubo followed that script to a tee throughout last season, but now faces a career crossroads. A stamina doubt exists.
“Going forward he is entered in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat over 7f at Deauville,” Appleby said of Pinatubo. “We could drop him back in trip for that, although the Sussex Stakes remains another option.”
Reading between the lines, though, connections are leaning towards to France rather than Glorious Goodwood. “We’ll drop back to 7f in France, where hopefully he can get his head back in front,” Appleby added.
“Beyond that, later in the season we could look at races like the Prix du Moulin [at Longchamp] or the Breeders’ Cup Mile [at Keeneland this year].”
Pinatubo another Too Darn Hot?
These are not stiff tests over a mile. There is also a salient comparison between Pinatubo and his predecessor as champion juvenile, Too Darn Hot.
The no less illustrious connections of John Gosden and Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber thought they had a sure-fire Classic winner on their hands. Oh, how fate can be cruel.
Too Darn Hot missed the 2000 Guineas with a setback and went straight to the Dante at York. That Epsom Derby trial stretched his stamina and so Gosden quickly turned him out in the Irish Guineas.
Old rival Phoenix Of Spain had other ideas, though, and landed that Curragh classic. Too Darn Hot was outpaced in the closing stages of the St James’s Palace, so it was back to the drawing board for Gosden and co.
Their solution? Drop back in trip for the Prix Jean Prat and then follow-up in the Sussex Stakes. It’s worth bearing mind that there was an extra week between the races last year than this.
It worked for one Dewhurst Stakes scorer, so why not another? These are logical options for Pinatubo and Appleby doesn’t need any encouragement to send his horses over to France.
The Prix Jean Prat is a race that Godolphin supremo Sheikh Mohammed often targets. In the last five renewals alone, those world famous all blue silks have been carried to victory twice with as many placed horses.
Going to Deauville on the Normandy coast with Pinatubo next makes plenty of sense, then. The Sussex Stakes hasn’t brought so much luck for Godolphin, however.
Ribchester twice went down by narrow margins at Glorious Goodwood. It was a similar hard luck story for Dawn Approach and Farrh, but the latter had Frankel to contend with.
How do they bet on the Sussex Stakes?
Assessing Pinatubo and his Sussex Stakes claims is something the bookies are struggling with themselves. He ranges in price from best ante post odds of 4/1 right down to 9/4 in a place.
Although it’s an easy mile at Goodwood, the race is expected to be hot. Too Darn Hot you might say! Irish 2000 Guineas scorer Siskin, a horse who belied stamina doubts, is favourite with bookmakers.
A word of caution, though. Ger Lyons’ stable star played up in the stalls and had to be withdrawn on his last visit to Britain.
Palace Pier, the rapidly progressive horse who blindsided Pinatubo in the St James’s Palace, gets some bookie quotes ahead of him in the market.
Circus Maximus, the Sussex Stakes runner-up in 2019, is a prominent betting contender again for the older generation now.
Since his Glorious Goodwood second, the Aidan O’Brien trained four-year-old has won the Prix du Moulin and Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.
Godolphin could also send Gosden’s Terebellum, a head behind Circus Maximus last time out, to the Sussex Stakes. Five contenders all at ante post odds of 6/1 or shorter.
That does suggest, on paper at least, we could be dealing with the race of Glorious Goodwood. Pinatubo has two narrow defeats at a mile, but such is the weight of expectation that people are wondering whether he stays.
He hasn’t got the trip at courses where stamina comes into play. Goodwood is downhill for most of the Sussex Stakes, so that can only help.
It is tempting, too tempting to dismiss Pinatubo. He was such a talent at two that anything other than continuing his winning sequence felt like a disappointment.
Like the volcano he is named after, don’t think Pinatubo is dormant yet. The Prix Jean Prat could be the rumblings that leads to an explosion in the second half of this season.